“I’ve already been interviewed, monsieur.”
It was, even in simple speech, a beautiful voice. A shame to hide it in a vow of silence.
“I know,” said Gamache. “I read the report. You were here when Frère Mathieu was found.”
“Do you sing?” the Chief asked.
In any other setting it would be a preposterous first question to a suspect. But not here.
“We all do.”
“How long have you been at Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups?”
There was a hesitation and Gamache felt this young man could have told him the days, hours and exact minutes since he’d walked past that heavy door.
“Why did you come here?”
Gamache didn’t know if Frère Luc was being deliberately unhelpful by giving terse answers, or if the rule of silence came naturally to him and words did not.
“I wonder if you could be a little fuller in your answers, mon frère?”
Frère Luc looked petulant.
A young man trying to hide a temper beneath monks’ robes, thought Gamache. So much can hide in silence. Or at least try. Gamache knew most emotions eventually found their way out, especially anger.
“I’d heard the recording,” said Luc. “The chants. I was a postulant in another monastery, down south, by the border. They also do chants, but this was different.”
“It’s hard to say what’s different.” Frère Luc’s face changed as soon as he thought about the music. That calm he’d only pretended to became genuine. “As soon as I heard the monks from Saint-Gilbert I knew I’d never heard anything like it.”
Luc actually smiled. “I suppose I should say I came here to be closer to God, but the truth is, I think I can find God in any abbey. But I can’t find the chants just anywhere. Only here.”
“The death of Frère Mathieu must be a great loss.”
The boy opened his mouth, then shut it. His chin dimpled just a bit, his emotions almost breaking through.
“You have no idea.”
And Gamache suspected that might be right.
“Was the prior one of the reasons you came here?”
Frère Luc nodded.
“Will you stay?” Gamache asked.
Frère Luc dropped his eyes to his hands, and kneaded his robe. “I’m not sure where else I’d go.”
“This is your home now?”
“The chants are my home. They happen to be here.”
“The music means that much to you?”
Frère Luc cocked his head to one side and examined the Chief Inspector.
“Have you ever been in love?”
“I have,” said Gamache. “I still am.”
“Then you’ll understand. When I heard that first recording I fell in love. One of the monks at my old monastery had a recording. This was a couple of years ago, when it first came out. He came into my cell and played it for me. We were both in the choir at the abbey and he wanted to know what I thought.”
“And what did you think?”
“Nothing. For the first time in my life I had no thoughts. Just feelings. I listened to the recording over and over, in all my spare time.”
“What did it do for you?”
“What did falling in love do for you? Can you ever really explain it? It filled empty spaces I never knew were empty. It cured a loneliness I never knew I had. It gave me joy. And freedom. I think that was the most amazing part. I suddenly felt both embraced and freed at the same time.”
“Is that ecstasy?” Gamache asked, after thinking about what the monk had said for a few moments. “Was it a spiritual experience?”
Again, Frère Luc regarded the Chief Inspector.
“It wasn’t having ‘a’ spiritual experience. I’d had them before. We all have here, otherwise we wouldn’t be monks. This was ‘the’ spiritual experience. Completely separate from religion. From the Church.”
“What do you mean?”
“I met God.”
Gamache let that sit for a moment.
“In the music?” he asked.
Frère Luc nodded. Lost for words.
* * *
Jean-Guy stared at the laptop screen saver. Then at the portable satellite dish they took with them into remote areas.
Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t.
Why it would work and why it would fail were mysteries to Beauvoir. He made the same connections every time. Made the same adjustments. Did the same thing at every investigation.